We’re biased, sure, but we happen to think Nantucket represents one of the most fascinating historical destinations on the New England coast. Staying here at Greydon House in the heart of Nantucket Town, you’re strategically positioned to visit some of the island’s standout historical landmarks while enjoying our one-of-a-kind brand of boutique hospitality.
Here’s an overview of some of the must-see relics that shed some light on the Little Grey Lady’s past, each managed by the Nantucket Historical Association and open to the public through October.
The Jethro Coffin House (16 Sunset Hill)
This is the oldest house on Nantucket: built about 1686 as a wedding present for Jethro Coffin and Mary Gardner, whose union served as a confluence of two of the most venerable Nantucket families. At that time, as the Historical Association notes, only a few hundred settlers constituted Nantucket’s English population, which was still well outnumbered by the indigenous Wampanoag people.
The Jethro Coffin House became a National Historic Landmark in 1968 and survived a lightning strike in 1987.
The Old Mill (50 Prospect St.)
There’s no older working windmill in the U.S. than Nantucket’s Old Mill, built in the 1740s by local sailor Nathan Wilbur. It’s an example of a smock mill, defined by a fixed tower with a cap that rotates with the wind. This is the only remaining of the four smock mills that once spun away above Nantucket Town.
The Quaker Meeting House (7 Fair St.)
The Quaker Meeting House evokes some fascinating colonial history. Quakerism arose in England in the 1860s, and due to persecution from the religious establishment there many of its adherents sailed for the New World. Massachusetts responded with some of the stiffest resistance to Quaker settlers of the colonies, but this lessened over time. Mary (Coffin) Starbuck and her husband Nathaniel were the initial leaders in bringing Quakerism to Nantucket in the early 1700s, and their house served as the island’s first Quaker meeting place.
This building was erected in 1838 to provide a place of congregation for one of the Nantucket Quaker sects that by then had developed, the Wilburites. In 1894, the Nantucket Historical Association purchased the Quaker Meeting House, which became its first museum.
The Thomas Macy House (99 Main St.)
The marvelously named Valentine Swain built this house around 1800, and it was significantly expanded with an 1830s remodel by Thomas and Eunice Macy. Thomas co-owned the Thomas Macy Warehouse—still an architectural fixture of Straight Wharf—with his brother.
Delve Into Nantucket’s History & Architectural Heritage on a Greydon House Getaway
We’ve only scratched the surface of Nantucket’s historic buildings: You can browse other amazing ones at the Nantucket Historical Association website here. Another must-visit for history buffs—really, any Nantucket visitors—is the Whaling Museum, also run by the Association and partly occupying its own vintage structure: an 1847-built spermaceti candle factory, appropriate digs for an interpretive center focused on Nantucket’s world-famous historical whaling industry.